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LiDAR drones are not new in the market as they have become more popular and affordable, making them a perfect alternative for drone users. So, what is a LiDAR drone?

A LiDAR drone is a type of drone that has been designed to carry a LiDAR sensor meant for collecting data. Professionals may use the data collected from a LiDAR drone to make 3D models, enabling the user to pinpoint structures, features, or focus areas with precise details. LiDAR technology has literally expanded the use of drones in the modern era.

For instance, LiDAR drones have found their application relevant in various industries, including mining, forestry, oil and gas exploration, agriculture, archeology, and construction. Read on to learn more about LiDAR drones, including the cost and the applications.

white drone

What Is LiDAR?

The term LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging. It is a remoting sensor that utilizes pulsed light to collect data from the earth's surface. The collected data can be processed into 3D models for finer details and to obtain the desired information.

Notably, LiDAR technology was developed in the 1960s when land surveyors and engineers began using it to produce streams, rivers, and geographic location maps. Initially, LiDAR was not an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging but a combination of two words, "light" and "radar."

Moreover, during the initial stages of LiDAR technology, the LiDAR sensors were expensive and mainly attached to crewed airplanes. While these large human-crewed airplanes could easily cover a significant ground at once, the process was manual and very expensive. The results were also not very accurate.

How The LiDAR Technology Works

The LiDAR technology is different from other modeling systems, such as photogrammetry, which entails taking many photographs and stitching them together to make a single detailed model.

Instead, LiDAR technology employs light energy and complex lasers to scan and gauge the target object from a significant distance. When the LiDAR is attached to a drone, it can cut through debris precisely, making it ideal for discovering new sites in fields such as archeology.

Generally, how the LiDAR technology works is similar to how radar detects objects. The radar relies upon bouncing radio or sound waves from an object and the time it takes to return to determine the object's distance to the radar. In the same way, radar sensors measure an object by putting into consideration the following;

  • Time
  • Intensity
  • The angle of the reflection

After collecting data, specialized 3D mapping software processes the collected data to create detailed and precise 3D models.

How Much Does A Lidar Drone Cost?

Whether you want to embrace LiDAR technology for professional or hobby purposes, the first consideration you will have to make is the price. Notably, LiDAR technology is more significant in researching narrow structures such as telecommunication towers, making it more valuable and expensive.

So, how much does a lidar drone cost? You will need to separate the two to have a clear glimpse of the cost of a lidar drone. A Lidar Drone is simply a drone equipped with LiDAR technology. Therefore, to get the price of a LiDAR drone, you may have to look at it as two separate entities.

A robust entry-level LiDAR system sells at around $23,000. On the other hand, a drone that can comfortably accommodate the system comes at a price tag of $10,000 – $16,000. In addition, you may have to cater for extra costs, including a base station, GPS rover, batteries, and other relevant accessories. The price of all the relevant accessories may add up to $10,000. Therefore, the price of a LiDAR drone ranges between $ 43,000 -$ 49,000 on the lower end.

LiDAR Camera For Drone

The phrase LiDAR camera for a drone is used interchangeably with LiDAR sensors for UAVs. If you have decided that you want to utilize LiDAR technology for one reason or the other, you must invest in the best LiDAR camera for the drone. Here are some of the top Lidar sensors designed for small UAVs.

The LeddarTech Vu8 Lidar sensor

The Vu8 Lidar sensor is a product of LeddarTech Lidar Sensors. It is a compact sensor that provides precise and accurate multi-detection over eight segments. In addition, even though the sensors weigh only 75 grams, they can detect targets up to 215-meter range.

The Vu8 utilizes a fixed laser light source to increase its strength and cost-efficiency. Further, the sensors have a high tolerance to noise and interference. Some of the features and benefits of the Vu8 Lidar sensor include;

  • Detection range of about 700 feet
  • Not affected by ambient light or noise
  • It is compact and lightweight, making it more efficient
  • Easy to install and integrate
  • It is pretty compact as it does not have any moving parts
  • Offers value for money

The HDL-32E Lidar Sensor

The HDL-32E Lidar Sensor is a product of Velodyne Lidar sensors and is among the top 4 products produced by Velodyne Lidar sensors. The sensor can provide the most accurate real-time 3D data for analysis. Most people love the HDL-32E Lidar Sensor as it is small, has a robust body structure, is lightweight, and boasts up to 32 lasers across a 40-degree vertical view.

Additional benefits and features associated with these sensors include; dual returns, 32 channels, weighing less than 2 kg, and low power consumption.

The VUX-1UAV Lidar Sensor

The VUX-1UAV Lidar Sensor is a product of Riegl designed with incredible ability to utilize Laser scanning to make it possible to acquire data in dangerous zones or areas that are hard to reach. While several features make the VUX-1UAV Lidar Sensor valuable, its lightweight and compact design are some of the most coveted traits of the sensors. The additional VUX-1UAV Lidar Sensor benefits and features include the following;

  • High level of accuracy
  • Field view of up to 330 degree
  • Cutting-edge technology entails online waveform processing, echo signal digitization, online waveform processing, and multiple-time-around processing.
  • High scan speed of up to 200 scans per second
  • The considerable internal storage of up to 240 gigabytes of SSD memory
  • A high operating altitude of more than 1000 feet

Drone Photogrammetry vs. LiDAR

How does photogrammetry differ from LiDAR technology? The Lidar refers to the direct measurement of the target object. In other words, you physically hit the object of interest with light and then measure the reflection.

On the other hand, drone photogrammetry utilizes the images captured by a drone equipped with a camera to reconstruct the terrain into a 3D model by using sufficient ground control and image overlap.

The major difference between photogrammetry and Lidar is that they capture their data for analysis. However, it is essential to acknowledge that Lidar produces cloud-like images while photogrammetry utilizes the photos of the actual site to create a 3D visual model.

If you are consistently working on sites with dense vegetation, then the LiDAR technology will be your ideal option.

drone sky fly

Is LiDAR Used For Photogrammetry?

Generally, while the process of photogrammetry can significantly vary, it revolves around collecting data and information about an object from photos. The photos used in this process are normally taken from different angles and locations for a precise calculation to foster analysis of the information.

Since LiDAR utilizes points of light to create a detailed catalog of information about an object in space, it is correct to say that LiDAR can be used for photogrammetry. Moreover, LiDAR technology and photogrammetry can be used in similar industries, e.g., construction and mining.


A Lidar drone refers to any drone equipped with a Lidar sensor, and they play a significant role in collecting the data that can be used to make 3D models for various uses. If you want to invest in LiDAR technology, you may need to spend up to $50,000 for basic LiDAR drones.